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Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics


Elena Emma Sottilotta

Photo of Elena Sottilotta

College: St. Catharine’s College


Supervisor: Professor Helena Sanson     

Research Topic: Women Writing Folklore: Politics of Folk and Fairy-tale Collections from Italian and Irish Islands (1870-1920)



Elena is pursuing a Ph.D. in women’s studies and folklore in the Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics, Italian Section, in co-supervision with the Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic Department. In 2014, she obtained a Mundus scholarship to attend the Master’s programme Crossways in Cultural Narratives, which involved a mobile study itinerary in three universities: Universidade Nova de Lisboa, University of Sheffield (Home University), Université de Perpignan Via Domitia. Prior to that, she secured a scholarship for a research training in Reception and Translation Studies at the University of Lisbon Centre for English Studies ULICES.

Before coming to Cambridge, she was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to teach Italian language and culture in the United States in 2017-18. As a Fulbright Fellow, she led multiple cultural initiatives and promoted Italian culture in international conferences, film festivals and intercultural events. Her academic background in Italy is in European and Anglo-American Studies, and Modern Languages, Literatures and Cultures. She is currently the recipient of an AHRC scholarship and a Vice-Chancellor’s Award. Her research on women’s studies, comparative literature, folklore, intermedia studies and creative approaches to language learning has featured in several international peer-reviewed journals.


Elena’s research project aims to explore how the collection of folk and fairy-tale narratives was influenced by nineteenth-century ideologies, cultural identities and linguistic thought by focusing on the works of women writers and folktale collectors who worked in, and were inspired by, insular contexts. As such, her research is tied to socially and culturally relevant dimensions, such as women’s studies, the history of linguistic thought, the preservation of intangible cultural heritage, regional versus national identities, and creative storytelling.



Elena has received several scholarships, prizes and awards over the course of her academic studies, among these:

Vice-Chancellor’s Award and Arts and Humanities Research Council Scholarship (University of Cambridge);

St. Catharine’s College Prize for Distinction in Research (St. Catharine’s College, University of Cambridge);

Estella Canziani Postgraduate Bursary for Research (British Folklore Society);

Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation Grant (Venetian Research Program for British & Commonwealth scholars);

European Society of Comparative Literature Conference Grant;

Polly Stewart Stipend (Women’s Section of the American Folklore Society);

British Comparative Literature Association Postgraduate Bursary;

H. M. Chadwick Award (ASNC Department, University of Cambridge);

London-based Italian Cultural Association Il Circolo Scholarship;

Fulbright FLTA Scholarship (U.S.-Italy Fulbright Commission);

Erasmus Mundus Master’s Scholarship (University of Sheffield; Universidade Nova de Lisboa; Université de Perpignan Via Domitia).



Lecturer and supervisor for IT5 “Italian Identities: Place, Language, and Culture”;

Supervisor for IT1 “Texts and Contexts”;

Invited lecturer at Alma Mater Studiorum - Università di Bologna (within the Master’s Degree in Italian Studies, European Literary Cultures and Linguistics, and the GEMMA Erasmus Mundus Master’s Programme in Women’s and Gender Studies);

Certified English and Italian Language Teacher, Linguistic Facilitator and Examiner: Since 2010, Elena has taught in Italy, England and the United States to language learners coming from a variety of social and cultural backgrounds, including university students, young learners, immigrants and refugees. She is a PLIDA and CELI Italian Language Examiner and participated in several international conferences on foreign language teaching. Her interests in this field include creative approaches to language learning, creation of authentic didactic materials and implementation of storytelling and creative writing strategies in the FL/L2 classroom



Sottilotta, E. E. (forth. 2022). “Maria Savi-Lopez: The Portrait of a Neglected Woman Writer and Folklorist in Post-Unification Italy”, in P.R.I.S.M.I. Revue d’études italiennes, Nouvelle série n° 3.

Sottilotta, E. E. (2021). Review of Laura Gonzenbach’s Fiabe siciliane, 2nd edition, trans. by Luisa Rubini, re-read by Vincenzo Consolo (Rome: Donzelli, 2019), in Annali d’Italianistica.

Sottilotta, E. E. (2021). “From Avalon to Southern Italy: The Afterlife of Fata Morgana in Laura Gonzenbach’s Sicilianische Märchen (1870)”, in Women Language Literature in Italy / Donne Lingua Letteratura in Italia, 3, pp. 103-121 (Pisa and Rome: Fabrizio Serra Editore). ISSN: 2612-1328

Sottilotta, E. E. (2019) [first author]. “Six Memos for Teaching Italian as FL: Creativity, Storytelling and Visual Imagination in the Language Classroom”, in E-JournALL: EuroAmerican Journal of Applied Linguistics and Languages 6.1, pp. 37-55 (Texas A&M University, United States). ISSN: 2376-905X

Sottilotta, E. E. (2018). “Maps, Razors, Monocles, Diamonds: Reading H. R. Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines through the lenses of Victorian Material Culture”, in Revista Interdisciplinar de Humanidades “estrema” 11, pp. 107-128 (Centro de Estudos Comparatistas, Universidade de Lisboa, Portugal). ISSN: 2182-8040

Sottilotta, E. E. (2017). “Re-imagining the Gothic in Contemporary Serialised Media: An Intertextual and Intermedial Study of Neo-Victorian Monstrous Afterlives”, in Crossways Journal 1.1, pp. 1-31 (University of Guelph, Canada). ISSN: 2560-6425

Sottilotta, E. E. (2015). “Diabolical Crossings: Generic Transitions Between the Gothic and the Sensational in Dacre and Alcott”, in The Irish Journal of Gothic and Horror Studies 14, pp. 81-99 (Trinity College Dublin, Ireland). ISSN: 2009-0374. Reprinted in the volume Nineteenth-Century Literature Criticism, ed. Rebecca Parks. Prod. Layman Poupard. Detroit: Gale, Cengage 375, pp. 113-123.


Other activities and roles

Postgraduate Session Leader (Postgraduate Outreach Scheme of the University of Cambridge);

HE+ Lecturer for the Higher Education HE+ Lecture Series;

Ph.D. Tutor for The Brilliant Club Scholars Programme (, an award-winning university access charity that recruits doctoral researchers to share their academic expertise in UK-state schools with pupils from underrepresented backgrounds.